Pope Francis meeting First Nations, Inuits and Metis during his "Penitential Pilgrimage" to Canada Pope Francis meeting First Nations, Inuits and Metis during his "Penitential Pilgrimage" to Canada 

Canadian Bishops thank Pope Francis for recent visit to Canada

Opening its annual plenary Assembly in Cornwall on Monday, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) releases a letter by the Bishops thanking Pope Francis for his recent Penitential Pilgrimage to Canada.

By Lisa Zengarini

The Bishops of Canada gatherered in Cornwall, Ontario, for their Plenary Assembly this week, have written a letter to Pope Francis to “heartfully” thank him for his recent Apostolic visit to their country.

The Pope travelled to Canada on a "Penitential Pilgrimage" of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, from 24 to 30 July.  The visit followed meetings he held in the Vatican at the end of March this year with representatives of the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples sharing the stories of pain and trauma experienced by both former students of Residential Schools and their descendants.

During his visit, Pope Francis met First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and several residential schools survivors and profusely apologized for the 'catastrophic' policies of forced assimilation carried out by the Canadian Government  through the Indian residential school system,  resulting in the oppression of generations of Indigenous children.

A profound and lasting mark on Canada

In their letter released on Monday at the opening of the Assembly, the Canadian Bishops remarked  that the Pope’s Penitential Pilgrimage has left “a profound and lasting mark on Canada, Indigenous Peoples, and the local and universal Church”.

“As the Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ your presence among us, as well as your words of healing, reconciliation, and humanity, have helped all of us to take significant steps forward as we walk together toward a more hopeful future.”

They further point out that the Apostolic visit has reinforced their common resolve "to spare no effort" to strengthen their relationship with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada “through mutual respect, greater trust, and sincere friendship”.

Discerning steps forward in the path of healing and reconciliation

The General Assembly of the Canadian Bishops’ Conference (CCCB), which runs from 26 to 29 September, and is held for the first time in-person since  2019, will focus primarily on discussing and discerning the next steps forward in the path of healing and reconciliation, inspired both by the Pope’s Apostolic Visit, as well as by the earnest dialogue which they have endeavoured to build with Indigenous Peoples in the past years.

The CCCB has strenghtened this dialogue thanks to the work of the expanded Canadian Catholic Indigenous Council and the Bishops’ Working Group on Coordinating Pastoral Initiatives for Indigenous Peoples, as well as through the CCCB’s membership in Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle. The latter is a Catholic coalition of Indigenous people, bishops, lay movements, clergy, and institutes of consecrated life, engaged in renewing and fostering relationships between the Catholic Church and Indigenous Peoples of Canada.

A milestone of this reconciliation process was the formal statement of apology to Indigenous communities, issued in Septemper 2021,  for the Catholic Church's role in operating many residential schools,  following the national outcry sparked by the  discovery of 215 children's mass graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, in British Columbia, in  May last year. The bishops subsequently  pledged  $30 million to support healing and reconciliation initiatives. 

Other topics on the Assembly's agenda

Besides indigenous healing and  reconciliation, the Canadian Bishops will discuss  the 2021-2023 Synod on Synodality. Earlier this month, the CCCB released a national synthesis summarizing key themes brought forward by Catholics in Western Canada, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic regions. This work will help inform a continental report and subsequent discussions at the Vatican in 2023.

Other topics on the agenda include measures adopted  against clergy sexual abuse and for child protection, liturgy, catechesis and evangelization.



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27 September 2022, 16:28